At Home on Hill Haven

Musings, ramblings, and pontifications on motherhood, unschooling, farming, sustainability, spirit, and life in general...

Location: northwest Georgia, United States

I'm a living-working-breathing mom, writing, mothering, teaching, and soul-searching from our home in northwest Georgia. We are whole-life unschoolers, which basically means our kids actually have a say in what happens to them (it actually means infinitely more than that, but's it's a starting point for discussion). We are also hardcore environmentalists, anti-industrialists, trying to escape from our dependence on petroleum, manufactured products and other non-sustainable practices. We homebirth, homeschool, and homestead, and try to make sense of it all, in a constant whirlwind of chaos.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Chickens!

Ten new girls!
Iris lurvs them :)
Straw is cool.
She points to the chicken coop and says "boc-boc!" Too sweet!

These hens have just a bit more growing to do before they start laying, possibly by October. Brad will have to make them a run to keep them safe from Pedro, who is quite the punk about chickens (and cats). These a friend ordered and gave to us, since she got more than she needed. They were sold as a "rainbow mix," meaning that there are a variety of breeds that all told will produce the spectrum of egg colors: brown, blue, green, and white. So far we are certain of a few of them: two are turkens, also known as naked necks (unmistakably ugly); two we're pretty confident are white rocks; and two are most likely shaver reds. The other four we can't tell yet. Two look a bit like Ameraucanas but they lack the facial feathers, and the other two are of the "I have no idea" varieties. We'll see soon enough :) All look to be bantams. One is molty-looking but appears to feel fine; she might be a mottled cochin, that's the closest match. I can't wait to be getting a lot more eggs on a regular basis!

Oh, and from researching these, I've determined that our resident Henrietta is an Ameraucana, not an Araucana as I previously thought. Araucanas have tufts rather than beards, and have no tails. Henrietta lacks tufts, has the muff and beard of the Ameraucana, and most certainly has a tail. There you have it. More than you ever thought you'd care to know about chicken breeds.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Butterfly Addendum

I just looked up a few more butterfly details (to confirm that yes, we do have a monarch sipping from our zinnias today!) and found that the gender of the black swallowtail can be determined by observing the coloring. Turns out the females have a broader band of blue, with the red dots minimized, while in males the blue is diminished and the red dots are larger. So, looking back at my photos, I shoud have said "she" rather than "he," and I'm pretty sure the second was female as well. Go girls!

We also have a large number of tiger swallowtails and painted ladies now, as well as another orange type I haven't identified yet. Such a beautiful season :)

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I've Been Labeled!

Here I thought I was being clever with all my little driving tricks, coasting whenever I'm on a downhill slope, letting off the accelerator when approaching a stop, etc. But lo, these mileage-increasing habits of mine have a name: I'm a hypermiler. So much for originality. But hey, I was hypermiling when hypermiling wasn't cool, dammit, and that's fer sure.

What's your mileage??

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Monday, August 11, 2008

And Another!

I knew we had an escapee from the butterfly cage, but had assumed it had died somewhere in the playroom, since I didn't find it on any of the plants. Not so! It made its cocoon in a very safe place, turns out-- on the back of an upright board that luckily didn't get disturbed for the duration of its metamorphosis. I found this one, even earlier post-hatch than the first, on the next day after the first one hatched:

I released this one outside just like the other. It amazes me how trusting they both were when neither could yet fly, climbing right onto my finger with no hesitation. I could be intending to eat it! Perhaps it knows somehow that I won't?

I also learned, after this one, that a precise amount of time after hatching and before taking first flight, butterflies must always pee. And these, at least, have white pee, which they spray in an arc with quite a bit of force for such a wee thing. Now I may add to my abundant list of experiences that I have been urinated upon by a butterfly, twice. Hm, should I add this to my resume?

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008


If you ever desire the experience of observing caterpillar metamorphosis, I highly recommend planting carrots. Turns out the black swallowtail butterfly lays its eggs exclusively on members of the carrot family (Queen Anne's Lace works as well), so if you've got a stand of carrots, as we do, you're quite likely to find these beautiful caterpillars fattening themselves on them. I read that these are easy to raise, and it proved true. We picked some carrot greens and put one of the little fellas in our butterfly "cage" and within a couple of days he had formed his chrysalis. I taped the carrot stem to the inside of the top of our cage. Yesterday I noticed that the black of his new wings and body was visible through the chrysalis, which had looked solid green until that point. He emerged not too long before we got up this morning. I found him with still-wilty wings, pumping them slowly. We took the cage outside. Opening the top, I offered my finger for him to climb onto and brought him out of the cage. After a few more pumps and some minutes in the warmth of the sun, he was ready to go, alighting on zinnias and rudbeckia on his way.

The newly-formed chrysalis. Too bad the viewing screen is kaput on the camera, I would have tried to get a better shot of it.

Still wrinkly this morning after hatching inside the butterfly garden...

Another view before taking him outside...

His wee feet gripping my finger and defying gravity. Galen did NOT want to hold him!

Wish I had thought about focal length when taking these. Again, drat the broken screen!

Pumping up the wings some more...

Last shot, just seconds before liftoff. Yay!

The empty chrysalis (with the nicely focused chicken coop/ storage shed in the background :S).

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